If you’re hoping for a promotion next year, there’s no better way to help your chances than by building your CPD. We met with a Finance Manager who’s knocking it out of the park for some CPD inspiration.
Gemma Close MAAT AATQB is the 2019 AAT Rising Star of the Year and she credits her focus on CPD for a rapid series of promotions from admin to managerial level.
“By developing my skills and knowledge at levels over and above the level I was working at, I was equipped to step in for the managerial role when it arose,” she says.
The role of Finance Manager
Just five years ago she joined CHN Financial Consultancy as a receptionist; from there she swiftly made her way upwards from Finance Assistant, to Finance Officer and now Finance Manager.
CHN is a financial services company offering tax, pension and investment planning, with circa 25 advisers. Gemma’s department deals with all the income that comes into the business; “any commissions or fees from clients that have to be allocated to the specific advisers and ensure they’re paid correctly.”
Alongside this, Gemma’s involved with creating the business’s management reports; “looking at income, expenses and budget and deal with any finance-related queries. Or we might look at events we want to hold and see how the benefits look versus the cost.”
CPD has specifically helped her, she says, with “the communications side of things in particular – how to speak to different people inside the organisation, and how to speak and deal with colleagues at different levels.” Gemma used a careful mix of webinars, articles and learning from colleagues in order to achieve this.
Key tip: CPD is ideal for developing soft skills like confidence, credibility, communication and career focus.
CPD for Finance Managers
Focusing on CPD has also been particularly useful for legislative and regulatory areas. “As we’re a financial services company, I have to be up to date not just with legislation for accountants, but also financial regulation. It’s something you need to assess at least monthly – and check for any new legislation that’s come in that you need to learn.”
In order to do this, “sometimes there might be a short course online that I undertake, or an event to hear someone talk.”
We all learn in different ways, and a tactic for getting the most out of your CPD is to identify how you best learn. For some people it’s printing something out and reading it, for others it’s seeing someone face-to-face; for others it will be podcasts, where you can focus on just the voice.
“I find I end up doing a lot more on webinars or by talking to colleagues because of the demands of the job; physically getting to events takes up a lot of time. But on the tech side, webinars are really powerful because you can keep a copy of them and do them alongside your main job.”
Gemma’s focus on CPD also helped her realise that it doesn’t just help with large, broad brush-stroke elements. “I thought I was good with Excel, but using one of the AAT’s webinars on building dashboards showed me there was plenty more I could learn with respect to the technical elements of the job. I’ve been able to incorporate the content on that webinar into the reports I use.”
Key tip: By focusing on CPD you can identify gaps in your knowledge and spot areas for improvement you weren’t previously aware of.
What are Gemma’s plans for future CPD?
“In the long term, the plan is to become chartered. A lot of people will say that!”
Gemma’s been a manager for just over a year “and I still need to develop my communication skills and managerial skills further, to make sure I’m getting the best out of my staff. That’s one of my aims for the next year; better soft skills like delegating and ensuring I’m interacting with them in the best way.”
Recently, Gemma faced a situation where some members of staff were underperforming, and she had to work out how to handle this. “As a new manager this was a challenge for me and something I’d never had to deal with before. I used one of AAT’s webinars on how to get the best out of meetings, and used this in conjunction with talking to my manager.”
That manager helped her through the stages of supporting a member of staff to get them to where they needed to be, “rather than just telling them they were doing things wrong.”
Key tip: Combining different elements of CPD can be the key to success and is a powerful differentiator in terms of getting a promotion.
“It’s really good for people to be aware that CPD isn’t just about ticking the box of events, webinars and articles,” she says. Any type of development is part of your CPD.
“It took me a while to realise that these hours with colleagues who’ve helped me and developed me to where I am is actually part of my CPD.”
Finally, what single piece of advice would Gemma give to get you that promotion at work? “CPD is evidence,” she says simply; “of your willingness to learn and progress, and evidence of your knowledge, skills and ability. CPD absolutely helped me get to where I need to be and it meant that when the right role appeared, I had the skills to get there.”
CPD in a nutshell
- Identify your career goals and work out how CPD will help you achieve them. Take the initiative for your own CPD – don’t rely on others to guide you, but do ask them for specific help and to answer specific questions.
- Be honest with yourself about what needs improving. Don’t see this as a negative, Gemma says. “Look at any area you can develop, and then utilise any form of development that you can.”
- CPD is more than events, webinars and reading. Whilst these are likely to form the core of your CPD, getting mentored by colleagues, shadowing on a project or simply having in-depth conversations with experienced people counts. Find opportunities both inside and outside the office.
- Record your CPD diligently. “I use the AAT CPD Record tool through the MyAAT dashboard and I find it easier if you do it frequently,” says Gemma. “Once you’ve attended an event, put it on there, analyse what you’ve gained from it, and identify what you might still need to learn.” At the end of the year, this can be used to see if you’ve reached your targets or need further development.
- Be serious about your career path. See where you want to be in two, five and ten years’ time. You don’t have to stick rigidly to the plan – but do have a plan.
Further reading on continuing professional development;
Mark Blayney Stuart is Business Journalist of the Year, Wales Media Awards 2017 and Former Head of Research at the Chartered Institute of Marketing.